Most of us are about to go all in on the holidays. This edition articulates six of my favorite tried-and-true strategies for managing holiday stress (yeah, yeah, a lot of the stress is joyful, but that doesn’t keep us from wanting to go postal on people from time-to-time, lest we are planful about our stress management).
#1. Create a plan for your kid’s academics, socializing and health habits. The holidays are like a cheerful, large-and-in-charge, bully coming to our door and demanding that we bounce around the universe like hyperactive gerbils on crack. If we, and our kids, are 100% compliant with this cheerful bully’s dictates, we’ll likely end up feeling exhausted, overweight and very backed up with our responsibilities (e.g. academics). Better to proactively agree on a plan for sleep, physical activity, diet and the completion of academic tasks. Then, socializing and other holiday activities can build around that.
#2. Create an hour a week of one-on-one time with each of your progeny. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I’m a broken record with this tip. But, it’s like I’m coaching you how to prepare your kid for a jousting tournament, so I always include the instruction: “make sure he puts on his armor.” Special time is that armor. Click here for a download on how to do it and/or see Chapter One in my parenting book for a more thorough review of the rationale and strategy.
#3. Keep realistic perspectives. I’d like to name a new parenting syndrome: CGS, or “Clark Griswold Syndrome.” To appreciate the nature of this syndrome watch any of the family vacation movies staring Chevy Chase. Parents suffering from CGS go into the holidays busting their tails in order to engineer nirvana. Then, when people inevitably act like people (instead of charming and appreciative angels), or the almost guaranteed surprises happen (i.e., as in the saying “people make plans and God chuckles”), parents suffering from CGS often get pretty upset and have their holiday moments ruined. Better to leave CGS to amusing movie characters.
#4. Try to keep the overdoing to a manageable amount. I used to counsel “avoid overdoing,” but that isn’t realistic. We all overdo, blogging psychologists included. But, the more we can try to cap spending and overextending ourselves, the better. I love the line in one of the Dirty Harry movies: “A man has got to know his limitations.” (I just wish I could snarl and say it like Clint Eastwood in the mirror each morning.)
#5. Enhance mindfulness. Here’s a cognitive trick. When you’re in a holiday moment with your family imagine that you’ve died. However, you’ve asked God, before transporting you to the next place, if you could be allowed, for a mere few hours, to enjoy your family one last time in this place. God then responds by smiling warmly and transporting you to this moment. Savor deeply. Appreciate calmly. And stay in the moment, noticing the grandeur around you, including the misfires, but especially the loving ambiance (not perfect but loving).
#6. Give yourself credit. I was working on my laptop at a Starbucks this week when I heard a man lament to the barista: “Look at my jacket! See this small hole here?! I haven’t bought a new jacket or a suit for myself in years, but my daughter has three new pairs of Ugg boats in her closet!” A few moments later he continued: “EVERY year we say we’re going to keep our spending to X on our kids!! But EVERY year we go way over that!! Why do we do that?!” I smiled to myself as most of us have these kinds of thoughts. But, here’s my point: we all deserve a standing ovation for our selfless efforts. Sure, we drop the ball a lot. We say and do a lot of dumb things. We also parent reactively, instead of with intention, more than we like. But, those elements are as much a part of effective parenting as dust mites are a part of a clean and well kept home. Not every home with dust mites is clean and well kept, but every clean and well kept home has dust mites. So too it is with parenting. Therefore, my fellow parent-lunatic, spend some time giving yourself kudos. …oh, and throw a few kudos out there to other parent-lunatics from time-to-time as we all could use a little air under our wings during the holidays 😉